Shaun hits brick wall over £25m house sale

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The Independent Online

Could Shaun Woodward be poised to execute yet another one of his oh-so famous U-turns?

The multi-millionaire MP, who defected from the Tories to Labour in a blaze of publicity a few years back, appears to have hit a brick wall in his efforts to sell Sarsden, his palatial Oxfordshire home.

Almost a year after it was put on the market for £25m, the sprawling estate has attracted nary a flicker of interest. Property sources now reckon he'll be forced either to drop the asking price, or take it off the market altogether.

"It's still on for £25m," says his estate agent, Knight Frank. "But it's an enormous place, and there simply aren't many people with that sort of money. One of the other problems is that we aren't allowed to do any PR."

Woodward's wife Camilla, a Sainsbury's heiress, has meanwhile been making efforts to rehabilitate herself among the locals.

"Shaun's rarely there these days, but Camilla has making increasing efforts to fit in locally," I'm told. "In fact, word is that she's about to invite the Heythrop hunt back on to their property."

The (anti-hunting) Labour MP isn't sure. "You may have heard wrongly; that's all I'm allowed to say," said a spokesman yesterday.

* Tom Jones - or Sir Tom, as he is now known - has occasionally been accused of neglecting his Welsh roots. But only a cynic would question his commitment to friends and family.

Strange, then, to hear that he's decided not to visit Melbourne in March, when his only grandson, Alex Woodward, competes in the rifle shooting event at the Commonwealth Games.

"Unfortunately Sir Tom's diary is already booked at that time," says a spokesman. "So he won't be able to cheer Alexander on."

Ironically, it was Jones who introduced Woodward to the sport. "When I was a kid, I used to go to Wales every summer to stay with my grandparents," he says. "I used to shoot little pieces of paper as targets."

* Hard hats time! It's gone "right off" between two of the foremost troupers in public life: Anne Diamond and Carole Malone.

Malone's newspaper column has often discussed - in less-than flattering terms - la Diamond's efforts to lose weight. Tonight, you can see what happened when this fact was raised on the TV show Celebrity Fit Club, in which both appear.

"The programme makers bring out a collection of Malone's old cuttings," I'm told. "It's car-crash television."

One carries the headline: "Burst Anne's balloon." The other's headed "Anne: a fat lot of good," and compares the former TV-AM hostess to Ann Widdecombe.

* The good name of John Simm is in danger of being tarnished by an ugly row over his latest TV series, the BBC's flagship drama Life on Mars.

Bosses at the corporation are investigating allegations that Simm's show - about a modern policeman who travels back in time to 1973 - has been plagiarised.

The writer James Ruppert says it bears an uncanny similarity to Spencer Haze, a script he (unsucessfully) submitted to the Beeb in 2001.

"Not only was my show about a policeman travelling back to 1973, it also featured cars 'morphing' from old-fashioned to contemporary models," he tells me. "There too many other similarities to be a coincidence, especially as my script was rejected by Serena Cullen, who is now head of drama development at the BBC."

Yesterday, Ruppert submitted a formal written complaint, telling me "I'm not going to let this one go."

A BBC spokesman said: "We take complaints of this nature very seriously and it'll be investigated appropriately."

* Say what you like about Ben Elton, you've got to admire his cheerfulness in the face of adversity.

A gleeful "exclusive" in the Carlisle News and Star reveals that his recent book-signing session at the local branch of Ottakar's attracted just two punters.

Unfortunately, both men admitted that they'd turned up by accident, having been driven into the shop by inclement weather.

Elton isn't bitter, though. "Nobody might have turned up, but I'm a really successful novelist and like to support local bookshops," he announced, after cutting short his one-hour visit.

Besides, he added: "Even Terry Pratchett's had signings where no one turns up."

So there!

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